What Is Agar Agar?
Are you searching for a healthy ingredient for your next recipe? Then look no further than organic Agar Agar, or simply agar as it is often called.
Agar is a specific type of seaweed and is derived from a Red Sea algae that contains robust thickening and gelatin-type properties. Known as kanten in Japan, agar is odorless and has no color or flavor, making it a perfect ingredient to help out with all of your culinary creations.
While many recipes look to gelatin to enhance the texture and gelling effect, this plant-based alternative can get the job done as well as, if not better, while also providing additional health benefits.
Semi-translucent or white, this plant-based gelatin substitute contains few, if any, calories. Use it to thicken soups, create jams, jellies, and marmalades, and even make ice cream.
Health Benefits of Using Agar Agar
This amazing ingredient is filled with numerous beneficial nutrients to boost your health. These include calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, folate, sodium, zinc, vitamin K, vitamin E, as well as several others.
As a result, it can aid in improving brain health, bone health, digestion, and serve as a treatment and aid in diabetes and weight loss. Containing approximately 80% fiber, agar quickly travels through the digestive tract, absorbing toxins and assisting with your overall digestion. It is also often credited with reducing inflammation, preventing anemia, regulating blood sugar, reducing cholesterol, and improving respiration.
Eastern medicinal practices use agar to treat both constipation and diabetes, and as an appetite suppressant. It is also used in the Japanese kanten diet as a main ingredient.
Free of any gluten, yeast, wheat, soy, corn, starch, milk, or eggs, it is also preservative-free as well. This is a major benefit for those with food allergies, including gluten sensitivity.
How to Use Agar Powder
Numerous recipes today call for traditional gelatin. Agar powder can replace that gelatin, providing a plant-based alternative that meets the thickening or stabilizing effects needed.
To use Agar in powdered form, you first must properly dissolve it. Here are the common steps to take to accomplish this and to add to your recipe:
- Combine 1 tbsp of agar with approximately 4 tbsps. of room-temperature liquid (water, juice, tea, stock, or other) in a pot. Whisk to mix thoroughly, removing any lumps.
- Place on stovetop then bring to a rolling boil.
- Let simmer for 2-5 minutes. (you may need to experiment with this depending on the type of liquid you are using)
- Pour into a mold, or mix with other ingredients.
- Set aside and let cool, so it has time to set.
Agar sets with more firmness than traditional gelatin, so recipes will be slightly less jiggly and less creamy. As an added bonus, it stays firm even in hot temperatures on summer days, so you won't have to worry about your dessert caving in if not eaten right away. This is great for those outdoor potluck dinners during warm weather as well.
When replacing gelatin in a recipe, it is generally recommended that you match the amount. For example, if a recipe calls for two teaspoons of gelatin, substitute that with two teaspoons of agar. You may have to experiment with this for different recipes to obtain the texture you prefer, however.
What can you use agar in?
Try it in any or all of your favorite recipes for the following:
- soups and stews, for thickening
- fruit preserves
- fruit jams, jellies, and marmalades
- various sauces
- Rice Krispies treats
- marshmallow fluff
- vegetarian marshmallows
- jellied cranberry sauce
- fudge or other flavor popsicles
- ice cream
- gummy candies
- panna cotta
- fruit cake
You can also use agar to replace eggs in custards and puddings, as well as in place of egg whites when called for in a recipe. To do so, replace one egg white with one tablespoon of agar. Whisk or use your immersion blender to combine with water, then set in your refrigerator. Once chilled, take it out and whisk again. Add to your recipe and bake away.
Do you enjoy foods and recipes involving citrus fruits, such as lemon curd? Foods high in acidity, such as kiwis, oranges, lemons, and strawberries, may need a larger amount of agar than the original recipe lists for gelatin. Keep this in mind as you experiment with desired textures.
Other foods that affect the usage of agar include peaches, pineapples, figs, mangos, spinach, and chocolate. The enzymes contained in these foods can prevent expected setting from occurring. You can easily get around this by cooking these foods beforehand to neutralize the enzymes. This will then allow your agar to set normally. You can also use canned versions of these foods, which have already been cooked, to make the process faster.
If you're interested in following a Kanten Diet for natural weight loss, as they do in Japan, add one teaspoon to your tea or cup of hot water and drink before each meal. This satiates your appetite and, as many Japanese women attest, helps keep the weight off. Due to its high fiber content, agar absorbs stomach liquids, making you feel full, and this, in turn, causes you to eat less.
A few more things to know about agar is that it can be re-heated after setting, and it will still maintain its nutritional properties. So, if you didn't' get it right the first time, you get a second chance to perfect your technique. If you wish to make batches ahead of time, be sure to use it within three days or less. Otherwise, agar in its powdered form has a shelf life of approximately eight months.
Is Agar Agar Vegan?
Agar is vegan-friendly as this jelly-like substance comes directly from seaweed, and makes a great addition to your vegan pantry. It can be used in almost any vegan recipe or as a substitute for animal-derived gelatin or eggs in other recipes. Try making your own vegan cheese with agar as well. It helps to firm up the cheese and make it easier to slice.
Agar can also be used by those requiring Kosher or even Halal diets.
Agar is a perfect replacement for traditional gelatin in your recipes. Be sure to purchase certified organic agar, so you know you are getting the highest quality. You can even buy it in bulk, so you will always have it on hand in a moment's notice.
Where to Buy Agar Agar Powder?
No worries at Bulkeez we love high quality ingredients at the best price you can easily shop directly here. You can also find us in Whole Foods and Target.